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The Reconfiguration of a Latecomer Innovation System

Governing Pharmaceutical Biotechnology Innovation in South Korea


Dirk Johann

The book examines the evolving governance of pharmaceutical biotechnology in South Korea in order to derive conclusions about the dynamics of a latecomer system transition. Based on an analysis of innovation activities in the biomedical sector, which is complemented by expert interviews, the research contends that the Korean post-developmental state should be geared towards coordinating the interplay of technologies, modes of organization and institutions. An integrative framework is developed to describe system change as a co-evolutionary process in which the national and sectoral dimensions intersect. The case shows that the shaping of an environment in which innovation systems can develop sectoral transformative capacity is a central aspect of latecomer innovation governance.


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6 Conclusions and final considerations


This research was motivated by a general dissatisfaction with existing conceptualisations o f the adaption o f latecomer innovation systems to the globalisation o f technological innovation. In our research we developed a perspective on how the accommodation o f the advances o f biotechnology research in Korea's industrial structure operates as a driving factor behind the institutional reshaping o f the post-War developmental state model. We departed from the assumption that the configuration o f national institutional arrangements is strongly influenced by historical contingencies. Therefore it is difficult to transfer the Korean experience to other latecomers that are undergoing a transition from a developmental state to an innovation state. Although other late developers are facing similar coordination challenges in overcoming the specific entry barriers o f industrial sectors in which dynamics are shaped by the global spread o f science-driven technologies, there is only limited scope for replicating Korea's transition to a post-developmental state in other historically grown institutional environments. In other words, there is no single silver bullet to switch towards an innovation state. System reconfiguration is a co-evolutionary transformative process that requires coherent changes in several different regards, both in terms of policies and governance and in terms o f systemic linkages. The analysis revealed several aspects that may inform the development of a general framework on post catch-up system change. From the governance of pharmaceutical biotechnology as a disruptive technology (Christensen, 1997) we can derive several conclusions about the multi-faceted transformative dynamics o f a latecomer...

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